DTU PhD Scholarships (6) in Sustainability: Building a Strategic research platform
As part of the Technical University of Denmark (DTU’s) commitment to sustainability, six fully funded PhD positions are open, within systemic modelling for sustainability, systematic engineering for sustainability and strategic sustainability implementation.
DTU is committed to technology research that supports a societal transition towards sustainability. A systemic and quantitative approach is taken as part of a strategic research commitment in the field of sustainability. In this context, a common methodological platform for technology research is under development, to which these six PhD positions will provide important contributions.
The PhD positions are offered as part of a collaboration between three DTU departments: Management Engineering, Environmental Engineering and Mechanical Engineering, with main supervision in one of the three departments.
About the six PhD projects
The six open PhD positions will work closely together to further develop the strategic sustainability research agenda for DTU, defining the methodological foundation for a comprehensive research programme in this field. The projects are defined as follows:
Systemic modelling for sustainable allocation of resources and prioritisation of societal needs
As a pivotal element in the transition towards a sustainable society, available resources need to be allocated to effectively meet societal demands. New technologies emerge with promise of significant benefits, but methodologies for systemic prioritization are missing. Sustainability modelling of resource utilization in view of technology requirements (e.g. infrastructure, market structures), performance targets (e.g. process efficiency, consumption), and emissions (e.g. reject fractions, indirect and background emissions) is almost completely absent. This PhD project will develop a consistent framework for systemic assessment of resources and allocation as part of societal change, with focus on future societal demands, resource availability, technological performance and target setting, framework conditions, and inherent data uncertainty. It is envisaged that the PhD refer to at least the following fields: life cycle assessment, life cycle cost assessment, material flow analysis, and future scenario analysis.
Systemic modelling of current product development approaches towards sustainability
Societies and industry sectors are currently making bold commitments to sustainability, both in terms of scope and intended time for achievement of these commitments. This PhD project will entail a systemic modelling of current practice, method implementation and sustainability achievements in numerous manufacturing sectors, in order to provide the baseline for gap analyses and the modelling of scenarios towards achieving sustainability strategies, outlined in e.g. the Danish 70% CO2 reduction goal or EU’s 50% goal. This predominantly descriptive PhD study will play an important role in theory building for strategic sustainability research. It is envisaged that the PhD project will refer to at least the following approaches/fields: sustainable design methodology; circular economy; sustainability strategy; eco-innovation.
Quantitative, systemic and absolute assessment of SDG performance
The United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been adopted by all member states and with their underlying targets and indicators, they define the way that the member states perceive and target a sustainable development. Based on the body of existing SDG assessment approaches, this PhD project will analyse how a quantitative assessment framework can be developed with the capacity to relate SDG performance to an absolute sustainability perspective by linking the 17SDGs and their targets to planetary boundaries, environmental limits and desired social and societal targets. It is envisaged that the PhD project will refer to at least the following fields: sustainable development goals, sustainability science, absolute sustainability assessment, life cycle assessment.
Ensuring resource circularity through systematic life cycle assessment modelling of multi-cycle and cascading recycling
Circularity of products depends on material selection, product design, production approaches, use scenarios and finally the closing of material loops through repair and recycling. Industry needs to make informed design choices to support the transition towards circular economy and be able to transparently document the sustainability profile of its products. Existing life cycle assessment modelling frameworks and models fail to offer the required decision-support. This PhD project will develop methodologies for systematic modelling of multi-cycle and multi-pathway recycling, whilst accounting for the resource quality of the involved resource flows and providing indicators representing the circularity of materials and products. On this basis, a framework for quantitative evaluation and design guidance is provided, integrating environmental, economic, and societal aspects. It is envisaged that the PhD refer to at least the following fields: life cycle assessment, material flow analysis, material quality, circular economy, and sustainable design methodology.
Target-driven systematic Life Cycle Engineering for absolute environmental sustainability
Life cycle engineering targets improvements in ecoefficiency (more functionality for less enbironmental impact). This project will investigate the possibilities of engineering to create the technologies and products that are not just better than what they replace but that can support a transition towards a sustainable society. A life cycle perspective will be taken and all relevant impacts of the solutions considered. Target-setting methods will be developed, based on absolute environmental sustainability boundaries. Operating space within the boundary must be scaled to the technology or product under development and further down to support specifications for particular parts, materials or processes in the life cycle. Improvement options are sought, both in the use of the product and in the foreground and background systems of its life cycle, to ultimately develop a methodology and a toolbox for systematic target-driven life cycle engineering. This PhD is envisaged to refer to at least the fields of life cycle assessment, absolute sustainability assessment and life cycle design.
Strategic design approaches to achieving climate neutral and resource effective society
Using for- and back-casting, this PhD project will develop a strategic sustainable design methodology, contributing with climate neutrality and resource effectiveness strategies to design theory. Theory-building and empirical testing of the theoretical constructs created in the project will provide a framework for industry sectors to focus efforts for sustainability strategy building, with a view to enabling radical sustainability transition. It is envisaged that the PhD project will refer to at least the following approaches/fields: Sustainable Development Goals; Framework for Strategic Sustainable Development; Natural Capitalism; Planetary Boundaries; Circular Economy; Donut Economy; sustainability strategy and policy.
Strong collaboration is expected between these six PhD projects, for the development, validation and implementation of the research within the field of sustainability at DTU. Each candidate will publish his/her research results in international peer-reviewed journals and present at international conferences and seminars.
You must have a two-year master's degree (120 ECTS points) or a similar degree with an academic level equivalent to a two-year master's degree that ensures you have skills that are of relevance for the PhD project for which you apply.
Applicable for all scholarships
Approval and Enrolment
The scholarships for the PhD degree are subject to academic approval, and the candidates will be enrolled in one of the general degree programmes at DTU. For information about our enrolment requirements and the general planning of the PhD study programme, please see the DTU PhD Guide.
Assessment of the applicants for these positions will be made by lead professors from the three DTU departments: Management Engineering, Environmental Engineering and Mechanical Engineering. Large emphasis will be placed on: the readiness of the candidates to fit to the PhD project of their choice; ability to motivate their research aims, formulated in the application letter and research proposal; and the potential to create synergistic collaboration across all six projects currently offered.
DTU is a leading technical university globally recognized for the excellence of its research, education, innovation and scientific advice. We offer a rewarding and challenging job in an international environment. We strive for academic excellence in an environment characterised by collegial respect and academic freedom tempered by responsibility.
Salary and appointment terms
The appointment will be based on the collective agreement with the Danish Confederation of Professional Associations. The allowance will be agreed upon with the relevant union. The period of employment is 3 years.
You can read more about career paths at DTU here.
Further information may be obtained from Professor Michael Hauschild, DTU Management (firstname.lastname@example.org); Professor Thomas Fruergaard Astrup, DTU Environment (email@example.com); Professor Tim C. McAloone, DTU Mechanical Engineering (firstname.lastname@example.org).
If you are applying from abroad, you may find useful information on working in Denmark and at DTU at DTU – Moving to Denmark.
Your complete online application must be submitted no later than 23 July 2021 (Danish time).
Applications must be submitted as one PDF file containing all materials to be given consideration. To apply, please open the link "Apply online", fill out the online application form, and attach all your materials in English in one PDF file. The file must include:
- A letter motivating the application, with specific statement of which position(s) you are applying for (cover letter). If you are applying for more than one of the six positions, you must rank the positions you are applying for, in order of preference, in your cover letter.
- Curriculum vitae.
- Grade transcripts and BSc/MSc diploma.
- Excel sheet with translation of grades to the Danish grading system (see guidelines and Excel spreadsheet here – in the right hand column).
- A scientifically written research proposal (e.g. state-of-the-art, research gaps, objectives and envisaged research activities, including references) of maximum two pages, relating to the particular position for which you wish to apply. If you wish to apply for more than one of the positions, a separate research proposal is required for each. In the proposal, you should also state why you have the relevant qualifications to fulfil the position(s) for which you are applying.
In the field “Please indicate which position(s) you would like to apply for”, please indicate which project you are applying for (title from the above list of PhD projects or individual research projects).
Incomplete applications will not be considered. You may apply prior to obtaining your master's degree but cannot begin before having received it.
All interested candidates irrespective of age, gender, disability, race, religion or ethnic background are encouraged to apply.
We expect the six successful PhD candidates to begin their projects in late autumn 2021.